In 1935, Robert J. Wood, Bell's chief design engineer, would begin designing what would become the most modern fighter developed between the wars. The P-39 Airacobra would be the first to feature retractable landing gear that used a nosegear, rather than the conventional landing gear of the era. The aircraft would also be the first to put the pilot between the engine and propeller in order to make room for the armament in the nose. The Airacobra would also be the first to pack a heavy cannon in the nose, 37mm to be exact, firing through the propeller spinner.
The aircraft's clean design and power would also make it one of the first fighters to operate above 400 MPH, though the NACA (the predecessor to today's NASA) unfortunately recommended the removal of the aircraft's supercharger, which rendered the fighter ineffective above 15,000 feet.
The P-400 variant of the P-39 was developed as an export aircraft, with large orders initially allocated to the UK and France. The main difference between the P-400 and the majority of the P-39 fleet was the main gun. The British wanted the Hispano 20mm gun in place of the 37mm, and in addition to the two 50 caliber machineguns also mounted in the nose, four 30 caliber machine guns were installed in the wings.
Rather than repeat the history and facts about this fine aircraft, let me recommend that you visit one of the best write-ups of the P-39 history that I've found, compiled by Joseph Baugher.
Ironically enough, the Soviets would end up becoming one of the largest users of the Airacobra/King Cobra family, and they would continue to use that 37mm cannon in postwar fighters like the MiG-15 and MiG-17.
This is easily Eduard's best kit to date. In this box are three parts trees molded in medium green plastic and one tree of clear carrying a total of 135 parts. All of the parts are clean with finely scribed details, free of flash and very few ejector pin marks overall. None of the ejector pin marks are located on a visible portion of the kit. This is some nice mold engineering!
The trees contain parts for this release, the P-400, as well as the P-39D and P-39Q. For instance, parts are included for the three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller and the three or four-bladed Aeroproducts propellers. Four (4!) sets of wheels are included, two sets are round and two have weighted (flattened) tires - a set of each wheels represent the early styled wheels used on the P-400 and early P-39s, while the other set are the revised versions found on the mid and late series P-39s. Three different sets of exhaust stacks are likewise provided to render the correct versions. With a little mix and match, etc., you'll be able to create virtually any P-39 variant from this kit!
The cockpit interior is no less than 20 parts including stick, throttle quadrant, rudders, radio equipment, gunsight, seat height lever, seat, etc. No seat belts are molded on the seat, but I suspect we'll be seeing these in the photo-etched support releases later as well as in the ProfiPack editions. While the instrument panel will likely be replaced later by photo-etch as well, the kit panel is nicely rendered and will also be easy to detail.
Interestingly enough, while the gun bay doors in the nose are molded into the fuselage halves, the interior detail is laid out such that you could easily add guns, ammo, oxygen bottles, etc., to create a masterpiece. For now, that bay is occupied by a lead ballast that will keep your model from becoming a taildragger.
Flaps and flight controls are not molded separately, but the fabric covering over the flight controls is nicely represented. The four guns are laterally and vertically displaced correctly. Holes are flashed over covering optional centerline stores, your choice of an external fuel tank or bomb.
Another nice touch are the two cockpit entry doors. Both are molded clear, which means all you have to do is mask the windows, paint the interior and exterior colors, and you're home free. What's that? You dread masking? Then this is the kit for you!
Eduard also provided a complete set of masks in this kit. There are masks for the interior and exterior of the doors, the wheel hubs, the canopy, wing walkways, and for the background of the 39thFS sharkmouth. A very nice touch indeed!
Markings are included for two different shark-mouthed machines, the 39 FS/35 FG example featured on the boxart, and another P-400 assigned to the 80 FS/8 FG.
This is definitely a must-have kit! I am looking forward to building several variations of the Airacobra, including a few of the VVS machines. My thanks to Eduard for this review sample and I'll be out to the hobby shop to pick up a few more. If your hobby shop does not carry the Eduard P-39 series, you can order one through Squadron in North America or Hannants in Europe.
An invaluable resource will also be Bert Kinzey's "P-39 Airacobra in Detail", also available from the above sources.